ALL my tours are inspired by great stories of science and invention. Apart from one on the Royal Society, many don't have a single theme except perhaps a wonder at what the Victorians, or the war time boffins achieved. Those without a theme you can therefore enjoy as a mystery tour. London's science stories are amazingly diverse and its characters often wonderfully eccentric so, if you love the unusual and the pleasantly unpredictable you will enjoy these walks.
You can find an indicative list of my walking tours below. It's a long list because this has been my speciality for several years. I am always looking for (and finding) something new. I don't do the same tour every day or every week. Routes and content are constantly reviewed so future walks can differ in detail. Tours may be adapted, with sufficient notice, for particular interests.
It will be assumed that you have read and accepted the general terms and conditions before making use of the tours.
Foundation of the Royal Society in 1660 was a milestone in making the modern world. Its distinguished fellows have included Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Humphry Davy, Charles Babbage and Charles Darwin. This tour takes in some former homes of the RS. But it is an unofficial tour. So rather than focus on big names this tour covers some interesting but lesser known characters. And even illustrious societies have bits of their past they might prefer to forget.
A 2 hour (approx) tour is enough for most people, but for 'completists' it is possible to extend it at a little extra cost for a fuller picture.
All my tours have at their core the history of science, invention and medicine in London, and that's world history. So, read on to see what else is on offer...
Heroic and curious experiments, odd ideas, scientific intelligence, cunning deception and pacifism. The walk unexpectedly embraces a wide range of topics including patent medicine and the circus. The emphasis is on seeing homes, haunts and work places, not statues and war memorials.
There are two 'Nine Boffins' Westminster War Walks.
Here are stories of industry, invention and discovery in the well preserved military heritage site, now at the centre of new development. For a while it was so secret that it was blanked on the map. Dickensian, but once a technical marvel, there is a Woolwich Royal Arsenal tour in which we are assisted by a Victorian guide book. Or there is a double-length Royal Arsenal, Common and Dockyard tour available which brings us into the nuclear age. The longer tour supplements walking with some public transport and thus it is only suitable for smaller groups.) Absolutely NO football!
Apart from a few iconic objects it can be difficult to engage with all the treasures in the Science Museum without the back story. The museum's own tours are very short and tend to focus on the famous. My tour for very small groups aims to highlight some of the neglected wonders you might pass by, and helps both scientists and non-scientists to enjoy the museum - explaining context, connecting the familiar and unfamiliar, answering questions, and adding a human story.
A 1.5 hour tour focuses on the mechanical revolution and objects on the ground floor, with a London bias. I am also developing a tour concentrating on electricity, computing and communication, mostly on the second floor, probably of the same length.
'This was an ideal way of learning more about the Industrial Revolution and its links to London. Very useful for me'
'Laurence introduces some unsung heroes of the Industrial Revolution and the ingeneous instruments, gadgets and machines they invented, without which Britain and indeed the world would not be the same today. Inspiring.'
Follow the trail of some heroes and heroines you may have heard of: Faraday, Darwin, Ada Lovelace, Dr John Snow and Henry Cole (prime mover of the Great Exhibition) among others. But you hear also of some other Victorian pioneers that you probably have not heard of before. On weekdays we may be able to see inside the Royal Institution subject to their conference bookings etc.
The RI in Mayfair was founded in 1799 to disseminate and apply scientific knowledge 'for the common purposes of life'. Monday to Friday (subject to RI business beyond my control) it may be possible to visit various parts of the building such as the Faraday Museum and the famous lecture theatre, and hear about of its leading scientists (Michael Faraday, Sir Humphry Davy and others). If the building is closed, there's my Ingenious Victorians tour in the area.
Not suitable for large groups.
An appreciation of 'Geeky Ladies' from the last 200 years. Too few women have featured in the history of science, invention and medicine. But the much lauded figure of Ada Lovelace is NOT part of this tour because there are plenty of other interesting, determined, creative and engagingly eccentric women to celebrate. This longer tour in Paddington and Kensington.
You may still like to see the famous sights - from Buckingham Palace to Covent Garden. But instead of hearing about the usual stuff you can hear stories appropriate to these sights but about medicine, science, social history, technology and natural history. On this tour you may hear of geology, bomb-disposal or drones.
In London, most of London's neighbourhoods have had more than their fair share of inhabitants who helped shape our technological world in anything from sanitation to radio astronomy - sometimes world famous names, sometimes unaccountably forgotten. Intriguing, important, amusing and delightfully random!
More local heroes. There's too much to talk about round here to fit into a single tour. One variant of this tour emphasises some of the war stories associated with the area ranging from cookery to sabotage. A couple of very eccentric scientists lived here, and one even managed to entangle sex with a sextant. Another variation of the tour was for students of Imperial College and features the Great Exhibition of 1851 and some scientific stories from the early days of their institution.
Variation: a War Walk, starting at one of the car parks. In this case there are few relics to see, but there are surprising stories to hear, and who does not enjoy a walk in the park?
In the old days of soap boiling and manure making it was generally said of Lambeth that 'The skies ain't blue and the grass ain't green.' We still pass the old gas works but now this is an area with greenery (partly thanks to the Blitz), interesting relics and remarkable stories including intelligence matters spanning 300 years.
The first stretch of the canal opened to Camden in 1816 on the Prince Regent's Birthday. 200 years later, on that date, this day long tour (8 hours) explored every inch of the canal and the life around it over 200 years. That was about 9 miles but with a couple of pauses in pubs to refresh.
The whole canal opened in 1820. To be repeated in 2020?
These are the names the scientific tourist may know, to give you an idea of the territory. My speciality is the interesting ones you don't know.
This is a list of places and institutions which have mostly vanished from the map London map (if they were ever on it) but which are covered among Laurence's different walks.
Please contact me.
To be scheduled.
Please check transport before travel especially at weekends.
to public tours appear here.
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